Since the introduction of Creative COW Magazine back in early 2006, we have been asked repeatedly to make the print edition available to our friends and members around the world. Unfortunately, we were not set-up to accommodate international mailings and we had no way to bill them and maintain the record keeping -- well, unless our small team wanted to work around the clock! ;o)
But recently we have added the means to allow our friends worldwide to receive the print edition and we are delighted that the response has been beyond our expectations, with orders arriving quite regularly. It has become somewhat of a hobby here at headquarters to watch them and have the team ask: "Wow, did you see that one from Siberia? Amazing!" (Yes, we really got one from a producer in Siberia.) Our sincere "thank yous" to our friends and members around the world who enjoy the magazine so much that the PDF/digital version is simply not enough.
Watching a dream grow is always an amazing thing. I remember back to when we first launched our fledgling attempt at building a media professionals community back in early 1995. We quickly figured out that usenet groups were not going to be the future and that listservs were OK, but they were not very functional and in a visual medium such as we are in, listservs are far too limited to build anything that will matter over time. So, we elected to build a website, and having just passed the 2 million unique visitors a month threshold just this month, and to see the magazine grow to the level that it has -- becoming the strongest player in this arena -- we marvel at what can happen when a team dedicates itself to excellence.
We marvel at the people who come to the COW and who are signing up for Creative COW Magazine. We are humbled to see the work in our videos-reels section and to see various jobs that are represented in our magazine registrations. When we see people that work on some of the top shows and channels, as well as occupy places on some of the top film studio teams around the globe, it makes us want to work even harder to guarantee that the site and the magazine -- as well as the many other services we provide -- will be useful and serve the needs of our members.
It was said long ago, that if you want to achieve something that is great, serve. Therein lies the secret to the magic behind Creative COW.
You are our focus and listening to you and acting on what you want is our function and commitment here at the COW. Without you and your ideas and feedback, this would be little more than a tiny site among millions on the internet. (And it stopped being that, years ago.)
Thank you to all of our friends who are taking the time to tell us that the COW Magazine is different and is worth signing up to have it in their studios at the Vatican (yes, that one came in too), in Siberia, in England, Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Greece, Spain, Sweden,and a myriad of other wonderful places, as well. We are honored beyond belief that the COW Magazine will be finding its way to your studios and suites around the globe.
It's an amazing world, isn't it?
Oh, and because we want to make sure that our friends get them as quickly as possible, our magazine is being sent FIRST-CLASS to all of our subscribers. In fact we like to say that's...
BECAUSE A FIRST-CLASS MAGAZINE DESERVES FIRST-CLASS DELIVERY™
Seems many of you agree.
In December of 2008, we hit the venerable Google Analytics 1,000,000 totally unique users a month
threshold. In January 2009, we crossed over the 1.1 million marker. February found us hitting the 1.2 million level. Then, in March, the 1.3 million level was passed. And so on and so forth until, today, in September of 2009, we have reached the 1.7 million totally unique users a month marker. (Being that we serve a professional audience, we always drop during the Summer months but bounce back fast in mid-August or so, as vacation season ends and people get back to work.) At our current growth levels, we will hit TWO MILLION totally unique users a month by February 2010 or thereabouts.
We have been doubling every year for the last few years and this current cycle appears that it will be no exception. We will have doubled again, from one million to two million totally unique users a month, in a little over a year.
It's rough to keep up a growth curve like that, year after year. Especially when the technology behind all of this is quite expensive when you hit the level that we have hit -- not to mention that we compete against companies who, for the most part, are international publishing conglomerates that are mostly billion dollar enterprises.
Back when I used to teach business classes to active business owners and managers for a couple of the banks here in Central California -- as well as speaking at California Polytechnic University San Luis Obispo's business classes -- one of the things that I pointed out regularly was that uncontrolled growth kills more businesses than under-capitalization. Surprised? Don't be, you can adjust and rescale a business to meet the level of monies available, far easier than most can figure out how to succeed with a business that is demanding more and more resources quickly due to the growth that is driving out of control.
Juggling these kinds of growth levels -- and the demands on both people and the technological backbone that supports it all -- is a real feat in a market wherein the number of available sponsors from which to draw support dwindles with each new acquisition. What used to be 10 companies a decade ago (in some cases), is now a single company.
Building something like Creative COW is a constant juggling act and it's one in which every ounce of both human and technological resources are constantly being drawn on and leveraged to maintain the kind of astronomical growth that we have to support here at The COW.
Sometimes, we have phone conferences and our team discusses the next phase of what we need to do to assure that The COW does not collapse under the weight of its own popularity. It isn't always easy but when you have a team such as we have built over the last decade, the job is doable and we look forward to early 2010 when the COW will in all likelihood be rolling past the 2 million unique users a month marker.
If you haven't yet signed up for your free subscription to Creative COW Magazine, now is the time to visit www.creativecowmagazine.net
and sign up. I am working on the database and wanted to give some of you stragglers a chance to get in on this issue before we do the final cut-off. The Magazine continues to grow and is becoming quite popular in studios and companies around the world, so take a couple of minutes and sign-up now
Is it a good magazine? Well, here's what Christian Glawe told us: "I have to admit that, when I first heard about the magazine, I was a little skeptical... 'What can a magazine offer that I can't find online?' But all you guys have done is create the single best magazine in our field. Period."
-- Christian Glawe, editor/compositor
The new issue of the Creative COW Magazine is at the printer and will soon be arriving in the mail for those in the United States who have opted for the hardcopy edition. For our international members, we will shortly have our PDF editions added to the magazine website for downloading.
You will not want to miss this issue as Tim Wilson has sought out a great body of guest writers for this edition -- doesn't he always? -- and it will give you a window into a world of production that maybe you have never explored before. We are calling it the Games Issue but don't let the title fool you, this is definitely not kid's stuff. This issue is one that is filled with ideas, techniques and inspiration -- drawn from a market that has the music and movie industries drooling at numbers that dwarf those other two major entertainment markets.
Give us a day or so to decompress and you will find the new issue in the Magazine website.
Congratulations, Tim. You did another masterful job on this one. I am proud to work with you and ride shotgun on this journey.
I keep reading publishers bemoaning the state of the publishing world and decrying the fact that print is dying. They quote statistics that back up their suppositions and while these "facts" appear true, I have to scratch my head and wonder why they cannot seem to see the forest for all the dead trees they have proffered over the years.
Why is print dying? Well, I hate to tell them, it's not -- it's their
magazines and view points that are dying. There are other magazines, of which Creative COW Magazine is one example, that are doing very well and are growing and thriving. In many industries you will find these "exceptions" to the general market malaise and decline in publishing. Tim Wilson and I regularly discuss these issues and analyze and examine the magazines that fail and the ones that are thriving in spite of the perceived general market apathy.
So, what makes some magazines fail while others excel?
The reason is simple: there is a lack of real content
in many once successful magazines today. Many onetime industry leading magazines are now made up of paid stories and features that many readers suspect to be the outcome of advertiser purchases. Some magazines in our own industry have been putting paid advertorial pieces on the cover as their lead story. This is crazy to us, and will compromise the integrity of any publication. I remember when I loved some of the magazines in this industry, years ago. Nowadays, there are some that I haven't read a single article of any importance in a long, long time. In a survey of many of our members, we hear the same thing and we get many letters that come in after every issue of Creative COW Magazine thanking us for the content.
Here's one we received the other day:
"I just wanted to tell you that your 'New Visions' Issue is the best issue of any industry magazine I've read since the DGA [Directors Guild of America] stopped printing Action. Thank you for the intelligent, informative, entertaining articles on paper." -- Jim Long, Pegasus Productions
And this one just came in today from a teacher at a high school in Louisiana who left this comment as she signed up for the Creative COW Magazine:
"Your newsletter has helped me greatly in the classroom. Helps me to keep my skills polished. As an educator, sometimes we get a bit set in our ways. Your newsletters, tutorials, and articles keep my students guessing as to what their next project will be and has taught them and myself more tricks and shortcuts. We used to only get 2 projects a quarter completed, now we are able to double the production and at a higher degree of difficulty. Constant source of inspiration - Thanks Cow Team! -- Heather Lampo, Grace King High School, Metairie, Louisiana"
Thank you Jim, Heather and all of the many of you who write us and tell us that you see the work behind what we do for the audience here at Creative COW. Your kind words and votes of confidence are truly appreciated.
When we look at the state of the publishing industry, we are amazed that so few seem to grasp the simple formula that will guarantee that your magazine will have an audience of eager, enthusiastic readers -- serve
that audience. Yet most magazines seem to have opted for the kinds of compromises that serve their accounting department more than their audience. That kind of focus is sure to put smiles on the faces of stockholders (for a short while anyway), but it is guaranteed (almost every time) to remove the smiles from readers who want and expect honest and forthright communication and value in their stories.
Serve the audience, that seems a simple formula for success.
Charles and I have started calling the entry way to the new Creative COW Productions' Mancave Recording Studio, the "transporter" because it kind of resembles the Star Trek transporter from the TV series. With (what will end up being) three doors in a triangle -- of which two are now in along with the entry light, etc. -- you can go left into the recording room or go right into the mixing booth. When completed, the steps up into the studio will have a third door that separates the studio from the business offices just down the hall.
Here is a shot of the entryway and the twin Andersen dual pane heavy duty glass doors with soundproofing rubber gaskets and airtight seals around the doors. The third door in the "triangle" placement will act as further sound dampening and isolation to safeguard the working offices nearby.
Since recording my first record long ago with a bunch of friends under the auspices of an engineer that had worked with the Righteous Brothers and a few others over the years, I have dreamed of having my own recording studio, complete with isolation booth, etc. So, when Kathlyn and I moved into our new home in Paso Robles, lo and behold, to what do my eyes fall prey? It is a utility area that Kathlyn and I took to calling The Man Cave, as it was clear it was going to be an area dedicated to music and my musician friends -- along with functioning as an expanded area where I could continue my music production and editing work. The Mancave is over 600 square feet of room that was intended for storage but has now been under construction for the last 6 to 8 weeks or so, and will shortly emerge as Mancave Recording Studios, a division of Creative COW Productions. We have been documenting every step of the construction, complete with floating the walls for soundproofing, using Z-bar to reduce the vibration and transfer of sound, how to set the sound proofing board and sandwich the drywall with air pockets to deaden the room, etc., etc., etc. It will be a multi-part article that will show in-depth how to build a recording studio that is a serious room for far less than you might think. Oh, this is not one of those "Build a recording studio for a few hundred bucks" kinda articles -- no, this is a real studio and one on whom we have worked with one of Ocean Way Recorders former engineers to spec and build. It isn't Ocean Way but it is one hell of a serious home studio. One that we will shortly begin to introduce here at the COW. Stay tuned.
Here is the first shot of the entry way, and the mixing booth...
The other day I mentioned to Abraham how much I disliked our blogs section and how little I liked Drupal, the system we have been using for a while now. He wrote me today and said that he had been at work on the blogs and wondered if I liked what he had come up with. My answer? "Please change over to this system today, Abraham. No need to wait."
Kathlyn and I are going to adopt him. Or give him money.
The nicest part of this system is that it is custom developed and Abraham has tied it in with our forums accounts and usernames. No more need for two accounts: one, for the forums; the other, to post in the blogs -- now, it's all one account.
Another nice feature is that the posting mechanism rules are identical in both the forums and the blogs. The vast majority of users who use our site have forums accounts and post in the forums. This new mechanism will make it far easier for them to participate in the blogs. For those who are used to Drupal and only come here for the blogs, it will take some readjusting but we are making the move so that we simplify the blogs for our majority of users.
Another great feature of this new move is that we have far more control of the database (for searching, etc.) and also to allow blogs to be integrated into other areas of the COW (such as user profile pages, etc.).
Abraham will be focusing on this area of the COW over the near future and we hope that you find the changes useful and will take advantage of them.
Thanks Abraham for listening and acting. I see the time coming soon where I'll even like the blogs. (To be honest, I have liked to see what people are posting but I really hated the Drupal system.)
Well, it's been an incredible ride so far this year: the COW has grown remarkably, with many wonderful new additions to the site, both in the infrstructure of the site itself and the people who now make this site a part of their online home — sadly, there have also been some horrible tragedies on the personal front that have brought solemnity along with the great joy that we find in building the COW.
According to Google Analytics, we will soon exceed 900,000 totally unique users a month — a staggering number when we remember that when we started building media professionals communities online back in June of 1995, we were thrilled when we went over our first 100 members. If you would like to see how the COW now compares to other magazines and web communities, you can see the comparisons online.
We have added a new MOBILE interface to the COW. The new www.creativecow.mobi interface allows people that use an iPhone, a Palm Treo, a Blackberry and other 3G-capable cell phones and PDAs to surf the COW. And one of the great new features of this interface is that if you use an iPhone, it knows that you can't see our Flash-based content and so it won't display any of it to you. But for those phones and PDAs that do use Flash, you will find it available.
Franklin McMahon has returned to head the Creative COW Podcast. Franklin is a great host and his sense of humor and his ability behind the microphone are exemplary. If you have missed the podcast, check it out — there are a number of new episodes online now and also available at the Apple iTunes Store.
New enhancements have been added to both the SERVICES OFFERED directory and the EVENTS calendar. These enhancements allow our members to look up Services Offered based on your region and locale using Google Map technology, giving the Services Offered directory a usefullness that goes well beyond the previous incarnation of our directory. In our Events section, we have added a calendar interface that makes that area of the COW far more useful. Check them out, there is a new level of usefullness in each of these areas.
We have added a number of truly bad (in a good sense)servers to the COW backbone over the last few months. In fact, we have doubled the amount of bandwidth throughput that we have available to serve to our audience. Our previous capacity was comparable to 128 T-1 lines running concurrently. Now, we have the capacity of 256 T-1s running concurrently. Into this huge amount of bandwidth, we have raised the number of servers to around a dozen. Most of them are dual and quad Opterons. A number of them exceed the power we have seen in some of the most hearty video servers. We have also added a hardware load-balancing router that has enabled the COW to keep up with the huge influx of growth over the last year. We had to, as in August of 2007 we were just over 250,000 totally unique users a month according to Google Analytics. A year later, in August of 2008, we were well past 800,000 unique users a month and will soon pass 900,000. So, while some people complain about all the ads in the COW, we would like to thank our sponsors as there is no way we could do this if they were not there. So, thank you sponsors! You keep the lights on and the dairy going.
As some of you might already be aware, we lost a son and grandson on Labor Day in an automobile accident. It was quite a sad day for our family and friends. But we were very proud of Ronnie and will miss him and Caleb greatly — though we trust that life goes on. So Ronnie, I tip the ole COW baseball hat to you and Caleb and know we will meet again. Those with less hope and little trust are welcome to their beliefs, these are mine.
So that has been my Summer report.
With the best to you all,
PS: Thank you to the many friends who wrote Kathlyn and me expressing their kind thoughts to us in the last couple of weeks. Your kind words have been truly appreciated and we are grateful to be your friends in the journey.
It always strikes me as odd that here we are in 2008, still relying on print to communicate many of the same ideas that are found in-depth on the web.
Is the immediacy of the web -- along its powerful information sources like Google and Wikipedia.org (to name just two) -- simply not enough?
Tim Wilson and I talk about this phenomenon from time-to-time and we think that it's one that shows why Creative COW Magazine has become so popular among its readership; a readership that grows daily and is already equal to that of many magazines that have had decades of lead on us. The same phenomenon is also seen in the book series of Harry Potter. (Are we saying that we are like Harry? We wish!) It's funny that people cite today's young as suffering Attention Deficit Disorder and that they are so saturated with "TV Mindset" that they can't keep their focus long enough to read anything. But Harry Potter has outsold everything else in its generation and is the biggest selling book series of all time.
Give readers something worth reading and they will read it. Make it of value and they will hold onto it.
We get letters over and over again from teachers and readers who tell us that they keep every issue we make. We are honored by their words and are grateful that they recognize the work that goes into an issue of Creative COW Magazine.
We believe that the COW is full of great people and stories and it's our job to sift through the overwhelming "mountain of information" that is CreativeCOW.net and present it to our readers in a logical flow of information that is of value to our readers. We don't just back up a dump-truck and drop a mountain in their yard. We work hard to take a concept and dig down into an idea and explore the idea in ways that our readers will draw benefit from.
The COW is a wealth of information and it can be quite overwhelming to people, at times. By exploring definitive concepts in print in Creative COW Magazine, we give our readers something worth reading that is more than the "here's a box with a knob and what the knob does on the box" journalism. Sure, there are times that we get technical but we try to make the technical within the scope of the concept being explored.
So, for those of you who write us or call and ask: "Why do you make magazines? They are a thing of the past." -- there's your answer.
Oh, and thanks again to all of you who take the time to write us and give us your feedback. We really do appreciate your time and reply.
Well, at long last, the COW has a new interface. It's been a long time coming and it's way overdue. I had gotten to where I just couldn't bear to look at the site anymore. The new look is far more balanced and in keeping with the whole idea and spirit of the COW. I am happier than you can imagine to see it as it had worn on my nerves for quite a long time but we were just too busy to deal with it. It finally just got to the point where I told Tim that I was going to just have to do it because it was more than I could bear anymore. When we designed the original COW, Eric, Kathlyn and I did it all -- aesthetics and mechanics -- in under two weeks, total. A complete original database-driven mySQL system, written from scratch, with many unique features and abilities that to this day most members have yet to dig to find. (For starters, it isn't an interface, it's three interfaces -- the classic threaded style, the topical type that some prefer, and the show-me-the-newest type that others find useful.) Now, at long last, I can live with it for a while -- how long? Who knows?
My offended visual senses can finally settle down -- for a while.
The latest iteration of the Creative COW website is well under way and I have to say that it's the first time in many years that I have logged into the COW and haven't hated the way it looks. I always meant to come back to it and get it done but couldn't find the time. So, last April, I gave it a minor overhaul but that was just a band-aid on a car wreck victim.
Then after the death of my Dad, I went through a severe depression -- not because I had left things unsaid or anything of that sort but just because I would horribly miss my great friend and lifetime companion. It took a while to get over it and it meant I did little else but sit and think. So I put some of that to work finding us a new look for the COW. Heartache channeled can be a good thing and besides, my Dad would have liked this interface.
I ran into the look by visiting some of the websites of members here in the COW. When I got to looking at some of the sites designed by Bret Williams (who is a regular in our Web Design forum), I knew that I had found the sense of balance, flow and style that I wanted in the COW. So we hired Bret to get to work on a design and he nailed it. Thanks, Bret!
Then I brought in Abraham Chaffin to code it all into CSS, so that the site is not made up of graphics but of CSS coding parameters. What this means is that the COW can soon marry the interface to user prefs settings and we'll be able to give users a COW that is built around their needs and wants and not a one-size-fits-all COW that looks the same for everyone. It isn't there yet but the foundation is there and we'll be able to get there from here.
Little by little we are adding new features like working RSS feeds for our news, articles, podcasts and other pages. The RSS feeds are proving very popular and we are getting many members a day through feedburner.com, etc.
Two new features that I am happy to see are the new library/articles functions and the leaders section. These new sections give users greatly enhanced access to our library of nearly 850 articles and also to exploring our leadership team here at the cow. To see them for yourself if you haven't already visited, please see http://library.creativecow.net or http://leaders.creativecow.net for more.
There are many other areas of the site now under re-construction and enhancement, we will be introducing these new features and additions shortly. These new features will add a width and depth to the COW that we've never seen before.
Let us know what you think or what you'd like to see. Bessie is all ears...
Well, except for all them udder parts.
Well, the new issue of Creative COW Magazine is at the printer and should be run shortly. Hopefully, all the work that Tim Wilson and I put into it will open up some interesting discussions and get people to open their minds to the incredible opportunity that lies in front of them. It is not often that a market shift opens up as many opportunities as that which the rapidly accelerating world of mini-media is doing. We have tried to explore this new media opportunity from many differing vantage points. This, so that readers can examine how the principles may play into their respective worlds -- or not.
One of the things that Kathlyn and I hoped to achieve when we began building media professionals sites online back in 1995, was to give professionals a way to get out of the myopic worlds we often find ourselves in as we stare at the screen in our edit and compositing suites all day. It's easy to think that the world is shaped in the form of that which we find ourselves in. It looks that way and so, there it is. Well, not always. Getting out of the rut is often hard. It takes both vision and education and that requires a time investment -- something that many of us do not have the luxury of.
So, that brings us to our hope for the Creative COW Magazine. It's an oddball. After all, we have elected to not follow any of the traditions that trade magazines have accepted as gospel in this marketplace. Instead, we have eschewed many of the core traditions that have (in our opinions) made the magazines in this marketplace largely irrelevant and bereft of the reputations that they once had. Page counts and reputations are dropping and, in our opinions at least, these factors can be laid at the feet of a lack of real relevance.
The internet at its best is a place where users now get much of the information from friends and peers online that they once got only from reading magazines and going to trade shows like NAB and SIGGRAPH. In our opinion (and it's one that is shared by many of the retailers and manufacturers that we have spoken to), few things are truly introduced at trade shows and fewer buying decisions are fomented by what is seen at them. Today, most of these decisions are already largely made, and the choices culled down to the few remaining contenders, long before they ever set foot on the show floor. Added to this, few readers trust the opinion of a single reviewer against the collective input of their peers who voraciously rip into a product and give their objective feedback online -- feedback that is often won from the crucible of a true production food-chain.
So, what then is the real purpose of a magazine in this day and in this industry, if these things are true?
The greatest strength but also the weakness of forums-based communities is that most questions and answers deal with immediacy and issues of peer-to-peer support. In among these day-to-day postings happens the great "big picture" speculations but they are hard to find. They also tend, like forums, to be quite nonlinear in their construction and so fewer people can put the pieces together in a coherent manner.
Magazines done well are the quintessential "linear learning tools." Smaller than books and because of this, bite-size but effective. They can quickly lay out a picture that the editors want to promulgate for their audience and thereby begin the process of advancing an educational process that will benefit them in the future.
Disjointed product reviews, a few tutorials and the occasional editorial won't do it.
So, we jokingly refer to Creative COW Magazine as a paean to our love of the great "concept albums" of rock music history. Give me Sargeant Pepper, Dark Side of the Moon, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway and other great albums of their ilk. Like them, we have tried to string the story together through a series of articles that will tell the tale of the rapidly exploding world of "media anywhere."
How well have we done our jobs? We hope that it accomplishes the goal that we have but it will be, as always, that the audience will be the judge.
As we get to the finish line on the new pre-NAB issue of Creative COW Magazine, the thought hit me this morning that this is really quite an amazing ride. When we started building web-based community sites back in June of 1995, we would not have dared dream that this would be happening in 2007. Or that we'd be doing as odd a thing as building a magazine and competing against the major publishing ventures in this industry. If someone had told us the future many years ago, we would have likely laughed.
It's quite a strange thing to remember the days when we paid $39 a month for a web hosting site that could hold all of us back then. There were about a hundred of us then, as the tools cost around $50,000 as the cost of entry into this market. While the cost of systems dropped, our web hosting bill jumped to a hundred a month and that seemed like a big thing. System costs kept dropping. Our web hosting bill then went into the hundreds, then thousands a month. Then the site picked up employees and the thing just grew and grew until -- well, here we are. Today, in most months, we get around 400,000 unique visitors -- some months, a lot more. We've had some months, that while rare, have hit around 600,000 visitors and up.
It's really been an amazing adventure and we have made many wonderful friendships along the way. Kathlyn and I joke that we spend more time with our virtual online family than we do with many of our blood families. We have seen you face trials, overcome and succeed, we have seen some fall and leave the playing field, we have watched others begin families of their own, and have been saddened a number of times over the years when family members have written us and asked that their loved one's picture be removed from our site's team as they passed away.
It has been incredible and I must say that I love the Internet. It truly is the place where you find the best hopes and, sadly, the worst nightmares of humanity. But I do believe that there is far more of the good than the bad. It is where you find a wonderful group like the COW Team who host and help people that they often only know from a few words on a screen. It is also where you find people trying to destroy your business using the most under-handed tricks and taking the intelligence they possess to try to ruin you. Oh well, our friends have always ridden in to our rescue and the fact that we even exist today is a testament to the friendships and relationships we have built over the last dozen years of doing this. Like most of you reading this, we have chosen to side with those who would like to leave the world a better place than it might have been, if left alone to those with darker agendas.
In the end, it's all been a remarkable experience and me and Kathlyn, along with all of us who work on the COW as employees or volunteers, thank all of you for being a part of this experience. As I told Mel Charters years and years ago when he first introduced me to the Net: "Man, I love the internet -- this is right up with the printing press and the wheel."
The best to you always,